Monday, May 17, 2010
PITTSBURGH DISTRICT OFFICE
Release Date: May 10, 2010 Contact: Janet Heyl (412) 395-6560, ext. 103
Release Number: 10-11/PGH
Executive director who enlightens small business owners receives accolades as SBA regional and local Women in Business Champion of the Year
PITTSBURGH – Christina Damiano, executive director of the Diversity Business Resource Center (DBRC) doesn’t consider herself to be entrepreneurial. But many of the 500 small business owners she has assisted deem her as just that.
Perhaps it’s because Damiano implemented a shared vision into a resource and referral center covering 10 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. This vision became clear after years of studies that showed what the barriers were to minority and women business growth in this region.
Early financial support from Allegheny County’s Minority Women & Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Department, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., resulted in the creation of the DBRC, and Damiano’s hiring to implement its programs and policies. Four and one-half years after taking the position, Damiano will be honored by the Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Region III Women in Business Champion, and the Western Pennsylvania District SBA Women in Business Champion.
Like the other 68 district winners, her nomination was forwarded to her respective regional office -- in this case Region 3, which comprises 7 districts; Delaware, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia – where she became the regional winner.
Damiano said there are three reasons for the information barrier that exists among small business owners. “Organizations struggle to find the money needed to market their programs, the population is too diverse to reach all persons through a marketing blitz and small business owners are too busy growing their business to research what is available to them,” she explained. “We wanted to do something about that barrier and this organization fills the gaps.”
Damiano acknowledges that fund-raising is a continuous challenge. “My top priority is to assist our clients, but I can only continue our work if financial support for the program is maintained,” she stated. “Building relationships with current and potential funders can be time-consuming but it is so critical.”
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Helping people has always been important to Damiano, and attending Duquesne University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in social and public policy, fully prepared her for the challenge.
“I’ve always been fascinated with public policy and how it can be shaped to help people in need,” she explained. “Here I get to implement policies based on a shared vision and know that first and foremost I’m helping small business owners.”
According to Damiano, the majority of her clients have been in business for more than five years and are looking to grow their operation. “They need growth assistance be it through financing, government contracting, tapping new markets, or creating new and retaining jobs,” Damiano stated.
While Damiano doesn’t possess the answers to all of their questions, she has assembled a network of strategic partners since working as a senior business consultant for the state for nine years. “I covered 22 counties for the state and made a lot of connections and I often refer persons to those contacts if I can’t provide an answer,” she said. “The one thing you never will hear me tell a client is ‘We don’t do that…good luck’ and hang-up.”
Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, said that Damiano has partnered with a network of organizations to assist women-owned businesses to grow and succeed. “Most importantly, she has helped women make their dreams come true.” Knoblock said.
Damiano and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be lauded at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 28th Awards Luncheon which will be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh. The luncheon is held in conjunction with the 47th annual celebration of National Small Business Week.
“I’m still in shock about winning the local and regional award,” she exclaimed. “I appreciate being recognized for my work, but mostly I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with small business owners. They inspire me daily with their creativity and perseverance.”
Note: If you would like to speak with Christina Damiano or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103
The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.